Knit Wit

June 18, 2013

There is ford-and-tadpole news but it needs me to have a decent camera so it will have to wait so I shall bore you instead with a knitting post, as it’s my blog and I can if I want to.

Some while back I discovered that some of my knitwear had fallen prey to clothes moths – I’ve already had to recycle one into socks – including two nice merino numbers, one navy cardigan and one sort of fawn-coloured jumper. Having tasted the delights of a snug merino base layer during the winter* I thought I’d better not let those go to waste so I unravelled what was left and have been looking for a project to make use of the wool ever since. I came across this pattern which seemed just the ticket although even with three strands of it held together (which makes for an interesting colour – something like plasticine after all the different colours have been munged together) my wool is much finer than the gauge for the pattern so in order to make it fit I’m having to knit it for basically a 42-inch chest, which I can assure you I’m not. Ahem. Anyway, that meant casting on approximately a million stitches so it’s slow going…

base layer knitting project

I’m hoping it will be finished for winter, although which winter is anyone’s guess.

The pattern starts off nice and simple (once you’ve figured out circular knitting) and then gets oh-help-that’s-quite-complicated around the sleeves and things but I am sure I will manage to work it out. They used to select women who could knit to operate computers during the war because if you could read a knitting pattern you could work out a computer, so I’m hoping that – as a former computer programmer – this also applies the other way around. Surely after mastering C++ instructions like “Next Row [WS]: Work all sts in patt, picking up wraps and working them together with wrapped sts. Join to held sts of back left shoulder using Three-Needle Bind Off” should be child’s play… And once finished, how environmentally sound will it be? Not only is it entirely recycled and hand made, it should keep me nice and warm rather than cranking up the heating. Although, on the debit side, I suppose it did entail the destruction of an important invertebrate habitat…

And when I’ve finished that, look what my cousin found me in the car boot sale, for 50p.

knitting wool

It’s shetland wool, two-ply. Any suggestions or requests? Because otherwise that’s an awful lot of socks…

*that’s August to June, in case you’re wondering

Knit Wit

April 6, 2010

For my birthday – that is my birthday a whole year ago – my mother gave me a lovely cardigan.


And you thought flat packs were complicated

Unfortunately, it came in kit form.

It joined the queue of ‘oh help that looks a bit daunting, maybe I’ll make another hat’ knitting projects until the beginning of this year, when I decided I’d better tackle it. Because it was a lot of wool to waste on something that didn’t work (generally, by turning knitting wool into a knitted thing, even successfully, you destroy about 30% of its value) I decided to abandon my usual tactic of making it up as I went along loosely based on a pattern I’d found on the internet and subsequently failed to bookmark, and decided to follow a real proper paid-for pattern. What – apart from being unable to follow the instructions* – could possibly go wrong?

Three months later, I realised that – even if I knitted as fast as I could – I was going to run out of wool before I’d finished the second arm of my cardigan, despite the pattern only supposedly needing eight balls of wool. Closer examination of the pattern revealed that I was supposed to be knitting it in 4-ply wool ‘Is that very different from Double Knitting, then?’ I asked my mother. Ah. Yes, it is, apparently. Who knew? I mean, apart from everyone who knits, of course.

Fortunately, fresh supplies of wool have just been scored. At current rate, I should have it in time for, I don’t know, next Christmas? And then, I’m going to have to tackle the big one: my aunt has given me the wool and the needles needed to knit socks.

Wish me luck.

*Women computer operators were selected in the war on the basis that anyone who could follow a knitting pattern would find operating a computer child’s play. Nothing I’ve learned in the past year has contradicted this assumption…

Get Knitted

February 19, 2009

So, as I mentioned earlier, knitting’s a bit addictive…

I started off simply enough with a hat, using a free pattern I found on the interwebs:

Officially 'Not Bad' according to the other half

Officially 'Not Bad' according to the other half

This would have gone better had I realised that UK and US knitting needle sizes aren’t just different but completely backwards, but I was pretty pleased with how it turned out. ‘Wow,’ said the other half, showing great faith in my talents, ‘that’s not actually that bad, will you knit me one?’

So I did (although he seems to have hidden it – or maybe he’s actually wearing it – so you’ll just have to believe me).

Then I knitted a scarf to go with my hat:

it was supposed to be longer but I ran out of wool

it was supposed to be longer but I ran out of wool

And then I went a bit mad and actually ordered some wool (cocaine might well have been cheaper) and knitted this:

Still waiting for me to work out how to knit handles

Still waiting for me to work out how to knit handles

Which was supposed to shrink down to lap-top bag size when I felted it but didn’t. It seems that all those airy felting instructions you read on the internet about just putting stuff in the washing machine presupposes a rufty-tufty top-loading American washing machine that washes things so that they stay washed, not one of our wimpy European front-loading eco-friendly washers that just sort of dabs them clean.

So anyway, nothing daunted, I then started to branch out and knitted a hot-water bottle cover which was based on this but with several off-piste additions of my own:

Like a tiny jumper, for someone with no arms. Or legs.

Like a tiny jumper, for someone with no arms.

Then I went even madder and knitted this:

Knitted felted mug cosy, patent pending

Knitted felted mug cosy, patent pending

Which is a mug cosy of completely my own design, albeit following the rather more detailed instructions for felting on the excellent ‘Knit like a Pirate’ site. The other half reports he can now eke out his coffee for fifty percent longer than before without it getting stone cold. This has made him correspondingly fifty percent harder to get out of bed in the mornings, especially with the nice snuggly hot-water bottle in there.

So … now what? A brief glance through the world of knitting websites suggests there’s nothingon earth you can’t knit, if you try hard enough. I’ve got three or four smallish balls of wool sitting tempting me on the kitchen counter… what would you knit?

Lockdown Life

March 28, 2020

We’re so lucky to be experiencing this lockdown where we are – with a large garden and plenty of places to walk and cycle safely nearby – that I’m almost hesitant to blog these days because it feels a bit like bragging. The fact is, I’ve basically been preparing for this for approximately the last 10 years: not just the gardening and working form home, but the knitting (there’s a real danger I’ll finish the jumper I started more than a year ago if this goes on), sourdough starter to deal with the yeast shortage, and even the fact that I haven’t troubled a hairdresser for a decade so I won’t be emerging on the other side looking any different from normal, i.e. as if I was recently dragged through a hedge backwards. So I’m sure all of you will be tuning up your very tiniest of violins because I can no longer get my daily paper because it’s not an essential purchase and we’re too far away from any newsagent to take advantage of the free delivery offer (I was still super excited this morning when the other half went shopping for the first time in a week and came back with the Saturday Guardian – and I’ll be making it last all week).

Meanwhile, with spring battering on as if everything was normal, which of course for much of the non-human world it is, I am getting on with as much as I can. This is the year when there will be no excuses for not getting everything prepared and planted in good time, although at least the garden visiting committee is also under lockdown and can’t spring one of his surprise inspections on me (at least, I don’t think so but he’s a bit of a law unto himself so I’m not ruling it out). Indeed I have actually made a fair start of getting the veg underway and tackling various projects, like sorting out my fedge, but the real luxury now that everything is cancelled is that I’ve time to just potter, which is my favourite form of gardening of all.

Mostly I like to work in the garden with Radio 4 chuntering away soothingly in the background but these days that can backfire. Apart from the mysteriously coronivirus-free Archers, the radio now delivers a steady diet of doom and disasters, distracting me from the job in hand. I can’t remember what I was listening to when I was planting my kale and broccoli seeds – the coronivirus special Moneybox Live? The coronavirus special Inside Health? – but it was clearly a bit too compelling. As kale and broccoli are both brassicas, and hence basically the same species, you can’t really tell them apart until the plants are fairly mature so it’s important to correctly label your seed trays after planting. Even more important is not absent-mindedly planting broccoli seeds in the same modules where you’ve just planted your kale. Oops. Especially as broccoli is about the only thing that really produces anything to eat at this time of year … I’m just going to have to do another sowing that’s definitely broccoli and see if I can work out what’s what when the seedlings emerge in the other tray.

Meanwhile, I’ll maybe stick to Gardeners’ Question Time when doing anything that requires any concentration. Although no doubt even GQT will be doing a coronavirus special in a week or so’s time …

Green Shoots?

January 24, 2020

Well, here’s a turn up for the books. No sooner do I write a blog post about the coonsil’s gaslighting behaviour, when I get an email from one official asking suggestions about where to put some new cycle parking followed by another from another council official offering to set up a tour of some of the worst cycling issues in Bigtown so we can explore ways forward. This is … unexpected, to say the least. Normally, when I get asked for input into the coonsil’s plans, it’s to look at some already finalised drawings so the Bigtownshire Cycle Campaign can put a big old rubberstamp in the box marked ‘we have consulted with stakeholders’. Occasionally some of the things we pointed out in a meeting three years previously might show up in an (already finalised) plan with no acknowledgement that this was something we suggested ages ago and were told was impossible, but that was about as far as I felt our influence might go, and it was getting a little old.

market parking

So it was rather satisfying yesterday to spend a pleasant hour with a council officer examining possible sites for cycle parking (having consulted local cyclists of course), discussing how best to install sheffield stands so you can actually attach a bike to them (half the bike parking in Bigtown appears to have been installed by someone who’s never seen a bike but has read about them in books), and generally come up with a sensible solution given the inevitable constraints about planning, and the coonsil’s unaccountable reluctance to plonk a massive bike rack right in the middle of the (nominally pedestrianised) High Street to stop the constant stream of ‘deliveries’ (this is what you get when you solicit suggestions for bike parking locations online).*

And it was the icing on the cake this morning to get an email from a local cyclist very happy that the last cycle path had finally been cleared of leaves. Apparently it took the wee machine a few goes up and down to get the job done, because the might of a coonsil cleaning machine is as nothing to a woman armed with a shovel, but they got there in the end.

working on the cycle path

So I’m feeling a little positive for once, and I’ll thank you not to burst my bubble for a little while yet, although let’s see how next year’s leaf fall season goes before we pronounce the corner turned. And there’s still plenty of stuff left to protest about, so we’ve got plans brewing for another Pop-Up PoP in Bigtown. This year it won’t involve any cows but if our discussion in the pub last night is anything to go by, it will involve both knitting (or more accurately crochet) and drinking coffee. And I think that’s the kind of protest we can all get behind.

cow on a bike

* It was even more satisfying when she had to go and move her van from one of our proposed locations to another and I (on my bike) not only got there three minutes faster, but also got to watch for a further five minutes while she hunted in vain for a legal parking place. And no, I honestly can’t think why cyclists have a reputation for smugness …

Make Do and Mend (Not You, Bike)

January 18, 2020

You’d think I would have learned by now not to taunt the puncture fairy … it’s just that you never quite know what will incur her wrath.

Like a simple tweet which was largely me feeling quite pleased with myself for tackling the fraying sleeves on a baselayer before they’d reached my elbows …

Regular readers will know I’m not one for fast fashion (or any fashion, really) and will try and get as much wear out of my clothes as is possible partly on environmental grounds but largely on hating shopping grounds. In an ideal world, this would involve looking after them properly to make them last, but in the world in which I actually live this tends to involve wearing stuff until I’m in danger of passing strangers giving me their spare change. So I was quite pleased to not just get round to tackling the repair but doing a reasonable-looking job of it as well.

Of course, having posted the tweet and headed out on the bike for an appointment it quickly became apparent that it was going to be more than my rudimentary sewing skills that I needed, for I had once again fallen victim to a Bastard Big Thorn.

You’d think by now that living in the land of BBTs and using my bike as my main means of transport would have left me a little bit more practised at fixing a puncture, even with Marathon Plus tyres. And yet, I still can’t manage to do this comfortably in under an hour. I have at least worked out (this has taken me ten years, but I get there in the end) that once you have taken the wheel off the bike, it’s a whole lot more pleasant – and actually easier – to do the tyre wrestling and puncture fixing indoors in winter, but that would appear to be the sum total of my progress. During the same period I’ve learned to knit even quite complicated things and make sourdough bread. It’s almost as if the gender stereotypes are out to get me.

Although, having said that, on reading this piece of utter baddassery, I have learned that sewing skills can actually come in handy when the Puncture Fairy really gets serious.

For Those in Peril Up a Pole

January 7, 2020

So, I’d like to say that it was a hardship today being the one who had to wait in for the Openreach engineer to come and sort out the fact that we’ve had no landline since before the new year and crappy internet since the last deluge – but given today’s forecast was similarly grim, it would be a complete lie. True, I had to cancel a regular appointment and I would be missing out on a bike ride but I probably would have done that anyway, frankly, given the weather.

Instead, after the engineer had been, pronounced there was indeed a fault on the line, and headed off in search of it, I had a moderately pleasant and productive morning sitting in my nice dry study watching the rain being whipped sideways across the fields and working around our on-again, off-again connectivity. Our intermittent internet has been pretty annoying over the past few weeks, especially as I work from home and do actually need a decent connection for much of my activities (but also, if I’m honest, because I like to waste far too much time on social media). However, I have been gradually learning how to spend the down time doing productive work where that is possible, which it mostly is, and when that fails, turning to things which might actually be a bit better for my general wellbeing than arguing with people on Twitter about why it’s counterproductive to argue with people on Twitter (Reading books! Actually reading the newspaper! catching up with my knitting!).

Despite this, I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t want reliable broadband back – although I do have to admit feeling a mild twinge of guilt when I looked out the kitchen window as I made myself a coffee and watched the engineer battling with his ladder in the wind to climb up poles in the rain all so I could watch cat videos and argue about cycling with total strangers. Remind me next time I’m moaning about the freelancing life, or getting a bit damp on the bike, that at least I’m not a telecoms engineer…

openreach engineer

I love work, I could watch it for hours

Oh, and nothing to do with the rest of the post – but if you live in Scotland and would like to see the government investing in transport infrastructure that isn’t just ever more roads then could you please head over here before Friday and let them know?

A Nation of Shopkeepers

July 5, 2019

I remain, frustratingly, cameraless after one repair attempt failed leaving me with a phone that will now not focus at all unless I use it in selfie mode. This is particularly annoying as Moo-I-5 have made an unexpectedly early return and I’m sure will be providing entertaining* blogging material as soon as they have got over the ‘Nooo!! Scary humans!’ stage of their visit (meanwhile the cows in the other two fields near our house have discovered each other and have spent the last two days mooing yearningly at eachother across the front corner of our garden).

Bike hub shopfront

So I’ve been trawling back through earlier photos and realised I forgot to announce that I have taken up shopkeeping – or, more accurately, voluntarily minding the Buddies accessible bike hub one day a week. It’s fair to say I’m not rushed off my feet just yet, although I have rented out one bike, shown a couple of prospective punters round, directed numerous confused people towards the ‘real’ bike shops in the town, and spent much of the rest of the time in an undeclared war with the illegal parkers of the supposedly pedestrianised street the shop is on. If a space does open up outside the shop, my job then is to dash round as fast as possible (which is not particularly fast) with the rickshaw bike or other contraptions to fill the space before the spot is nabbed by someone else who’s ‘just dropping something off’ to one of the other shops, a task which apparently takes all day. I can then amuse myself by watching through the window as drivers think they’ve scored a spot and then discover they’ve been gazumped by a bicycle. Or, when I fail to get to the space first, then at least I can enjoy counting the number of direct hits Bigtown’s seagulls score on the scofflaw parkers (there’s a reason all those bikes are sporting saddle covers, and it’s not just to advertise the Bigtown Cycle Campaign.

If nothing else, I’ve found myself a quiet (and internet-free) spot in town to get on with some work and/or knitting while I wait for the good folk of Bigtown to come in for a nosey, so it’s win-win as far as I’m concerned. Watch this space for exciting tales of retailing or parking war triumphs – or at the very least, some progress on my latest knitting project

* adjusted for the peculiarly low standards of this blog.

To Heck and Back

May 5, 2019

Hmm. Yesterday morning saw me settled on the bus, feeling that – rail replacement bus services notwithstanding – I had things well in hand. I had a lunch packed, my knitting to keep me busy on the coach to Edinburgh, and would be arriving well in time for our Pop pub session. I’d even had a stern word with myself about being over cautious with my bus times and decided that half an hour was plenty of slack between the bus’s scheduled arrival in Lockerbie and the rail replacement service departure. It was a Saturday, the bus had arrived well on time, and all was going to plan.

knitting work in progress

From my mouth to God’s ear, of course: for the next thing that happened was we happened upon a police road block. The main road to Lockerbie was closed and would be for some time, so the bus was going to have to find another way. Off we set, into unchartered territory, down a winding lane and then another, past the hamlet of (I swear I am not making this up) Heck, which appears to be less a place and more an excuse to put up a comedy road sign, and back up to the main Lockerbie road after a five minute or so detour – still plenty of time to catch my train. Phew.

Except that the road was still closed ahead, so round we went again, back to the original road block, back down the winding lane, skipping Heck this time and heading into even more unchartered territory, on what turned out to be about a 10 mile detour along increasingly narrow (and now quite congested with detouring traffic) roads. After a pause while a volunteer was found to help the bus back out of a wrong turning, always an exciting procedure, the driver confessed he wasn’t entirely sure where he was going and a navigational committee of passengers formed to get us finally into Lockerbie ten minutes after my Edinburgh service was due to have left.

All was potentially not lost though – the coach might have been delayed so I still had a chance, except that, as the bus stopped at the stop before the station, the chair of the Passenger Navigation Committee paused as she alighted to give the driver some further advice, a process which seemed like it might take forever. At that point, a bus stop worth of people who had been waiting 20 minutes for the Bigtown bus crossed the road to enquire about when their service might arrive, at which point the Brompton and I bailed out and sped off to the station just in time to witness the Rail Replacement coach sail out of the forecourt without me, despite frantically waving to get the driver’s attention. He’s probably wondering even now what he’d done to get the middle-aged lady on the clown bike so worked up …

Still, I made it and, while I was more than ready for my post-Pop beer by the time I arrived, in the end it was just an hour’s delay and a funny story to tell. Sadly, I found out later that the road was closed because of a fatal collision – it’s a notoriously dangerous road, and not just for cyclists (indeed I know of very few cyclists locally who would ride on it). That puts my petty problems into perspective and reminds me to be grateful that I made it home unscathed.

There’s Very Little …

May 4, 2019
POP tshirts hanging to dry

Post-pop washup session

… that sinks the heart quite so thoroughly as the words ‘rail replacement bus service’. This has been a week of trains what with two trips to Glasgow and two trips to Edinburgh, indluding the final one today, for the post-Pop washup meeting which will mean two hours on a coach rather than an hour on the train.

Even worse, though is spotting the word ‘cancelled’ against your train home – as I experienced on Thursday after a productive meeting with Back On My Bike plotting further progress with our other cycle campaigning activities (which in turn will mean more trains, albeit hopefully not cancelled ones). Expecting the worst – at the least a two-hour wait for the next train – I was pleasantly surprised to instead be offered a taxi to Lockerbie with a fellow passenger. I know some people who would have preferred the two hour delay but my travelling companion was pleasant and interesting and happy to chat, I had my knitting, and I even got an onward lift from Bigtown from her family who were waiting to pick her up. Sometimes a bit of enforced sociability away from the dreaded phone and laptop are just what the soul needs, even if it’s not great for my deadlines. And I’m making progress with my knitting. When life sends you cancelled trains, make jumpers.

I was also reminded that I am in fact the weirdo when I suggested my lift drop me off at the supermarket by the bypass, that being the easiest place for them to stop without getting tangled up in what passes for the Bigtown rush hour. ‘But how will you get into the centre of town?’ they asked in horror. ‘Walk’, I said (it’s really only a mile). Amazing, apparently…